Serious eye conditions are unfortunately more prevalent that most people think: 2.5 billion people globally have vision problems. Most of these cases can actually be prevented. In fact according to the World Health Organization’s factsheet on visual impairment and blindness updated on August 2014, 80% of all visual impairment cases can be prevented or cured.
It’s on this note that we review common eye problems – cataracts, dry eyes, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration – who’s at risk? How do you detect eye conditions? What is the remedy?
Cataract is basically the ‘clouding’ of your eye’s natural lens. They (cataracts) have been touted as the most common cause of vision loss for people aged 40 and above. The condition is associated with aging, although people taking high doses of steroid medication or those with diabetes are also other common risk factors for developing cataracts.
The 7 most common risk factors for developing cataracts:
- Prolonged exposure to UV radiation
- Eye injury & inflammation
- Prolonged use of corticosteroid medication
- Family history
If you notice that your vision has become blurred or if light is becoming too glaring for you then chances are high that you have cataracts. Contact one of our offices in Toronto to see one of our optometrists. When cataract is visually significant options are discussed to get it surgically removed.
Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eyes syndrome is caused by lack of sufficient moisture and lubrication on the eye’s surface. The condition results in eye irritation, foreign body sensation, sandy gritty feeling, redness, or even scarring in extreme cases. Over 25% of adults in North America also suffer from dry eyes.
Causes and treatment options for Dry Eyes:
There are 2 glands which secrete fluids to keep the eyes moisturized. The meibomian gland secretes meibum while the lacrimal glands produce aqueous fluid. In addition to this, goblet cells in the conjunctiva also secrete a fluid (mucin). Failure for any of these glands to function will result in disruption to the tear film layer resulting in dryness. Studies have shown we tend to blink less while using computer, resulting in higher evaporation for the tear film causing the eyes to dry up. Good habits to keep in mind are to take frequent breaks and to also remind ourselves to blink more often when using digital devices.
The body of person with diabetes is unable to convert glucose to starch thereby causing high levels of blood sugar (hyperglycemia). This impedes blood circulation and can lead to organ damage. The retina of a human eye is supplied by a vast structure of blood vessels. Nicks or breaks in those vessels can cause hemorrhaging and swelling in the back of the eye causing what is described as diabetic retinopathy. Many stages of diabetic retinopathy present no symptoms early on. Certain advanced stages will present settle and minor symptoms that are typically also ignored by patients. When not detected in time this can cause permanent and irreversible damage to the retina. When detected early, diabetic retinopathy can be halted or in many cases reversed. Treatment options include laser and intraocular injections with anti-VGEF medications.
Symptoms for diabetic retinopathy include;
- Spots and floaters in line of sight or peripherally
- Distorted or blurry vision
- Double vision
If you are experiencing any of those symptoms contact our office today to be seen by one of our optometrists or go to your nearest emergency department.
Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to the optic nerve. The condition is associated with ocular hypertension, although a large number of glaucomatous cases occur in patients with normal ocular pressure (normal tension glaucoma). Due to its asymptomatic nature, most patients who don’t get routine eye examinations that have glaucoma are unaware of their condition. If untreated, it can lead to blindness. Most importantly, any glaucomatous damage cannot be reversed. With treatment, the condition can only be halted or slowed down. Glaucoma has no clear symptoms. It’s detected through comprehensive eye examinations. Treatment for glaucoma is topical medications (drops), laser, and surgical intervention in advanced cases.
Age-Related Macular Degenration (ARMD)
This is a degeneration of a tissue called macula (hence the name). The role of macula (which is part of your retina) is to focus images for sharp vision. The condition typically affects people aged 65 years and over, although it can start at an earlier age. It can be detected through a retinal exam. Symptoms like distorted vision and shadows should also warn you of the same.
Who’s at Risk?
Common risk factors for macular degeneration include:
2) Obesity and lack of exercise (inactivity)
3) Family history
ARMD is difficult to treat. Patients with dry ARMD are typically prescribed specific vitamins that have been shown to slow progression. Furthermore, the wet form is typically more serious. Recent treatment of intraocular injections can also delay progression and even improve vision.
Sight is a primary sense. Whether you notice signs of a vision problem or not, it’s important that you also go for regular eye exams routinely as recommended by your optometrist.